She had been looking at his back for the better part of three hours, pretending to read the book she brought. It was her armour, her anchor, whenever having a coffee or a meal alone, in public. Seneca. It wasn’t pretence. She didn’t take it to show she was smart. Recent events and reading this book had made her even more aware of the delicate, fleeting nature of her existence. It had changed the way she looked at herself. What she wanted out of life. The needs and wants of a body that would one day wither and be left to decay. Such a sad thing, she thought while she stroked the soft skin of her thigh under the table. Not just a vessel to carry around a bewildered mind, but so much more than that. How her senses connected her to the material world around her, in sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful ways.
In the shower the warm running water reminded her of the shape of her, how her skin felt. Soft and tight, wrapped around just enough flesh to give her slight frame a feminine feel. It had been a long time since someone had touched her. She felt giddy at the thought of kissing a man again. Almost as if she had never been kissed before. She opened her mouth and let the shower drops tickle her tongue. The scent of her shower lotion suddenly evoked vivid images, awakening memories buried somewhere deep. Her hands, first mindlessly soaping the wet landscape of her body, became avid explorers. Gentle circles around her breasts, squeezing them before moving down to the small of her back, then to the front. The divine tickling feeling of the sensitive skin just above her pelvic bone. She wished she had more hands. One by one, her she invited her past lovers to join her.
Sitting at “her” table she had found a stranger. At first, she had felt hostile and territorial. How dare he take her table. She sat down right behind him to shoot death stares at him, hoping to burn holes in his neck with her eyes. Soon she realised there was something different about him. Other people were different around him too. Their facial expressions changed, the way they carried themselves shifted -even if just ever so subtly. What was that?
He did have a beautifully shaped, solid neck. She had very specific preferences in a man’s physique. Maybe some men were born with it, others had to work hard for it. She didn’t care. She would size up and weigh her men as if they were boxers about to step into the ring. What she wanted was a warrior.
He must be good looking. She could tell by the way the waitress hips swayed as soon as he sat down and she approached his table to take his order, bring a plate or take away an empty glass. Casually leaning against the door post of the restaurant, smoking her cigarette, her eyes kept wandering in his direction. Her leering was almost indecent.
Random Radu her friends called him. She loved saying his name at first, letting her tongue run circles around the Rrrrr, rolling it as if she was tasting an exquisite wine…. Purring like a cat. He had not been the wittiest she had ever hooked up with. You would not exactly call him handsome either but dressed up in a nice suit and wearing a charming smile he had caught her attention. For a little while. The happy banter was more alcohol fuelled than personality based. Something she didn’t realise until a few weeks in and by then the chemistry had already started to dwindle. The sex initially had been surprisingly good, apart from his kissing. He kissed like a clueless kid. Had no other woman ever bothered to tell him, teach him? In vain she had tried to take the lead every time their lips locked, but eventually she had just given up and skipped the kissing altogether. He didn’t seem to notice or care. Random Radu probably would only compare to a mid-range Chablis. The man in front of her had the aura of a full-bodied Chateau Latour.
She hated cocky boys. Wolves. The ones who hunt in packs, led by the alpha male, backed by his wing man. The ones slacking behind hungry for scraps. Tedious. Entitled. And always inevitably disappointing, never delivering. If you were going to be a player, you better bring your A-game. It was rare that she came across a man she wanted, but when it happened, she knew it instantly. It was instinctive. And though physically she had a type, the men who had shared her bed, her body, had nothing in common with each other except just that.
They met at Charles de Gaulle, waiting to board the plane to Bucharest. He was travelling with a friend, a handsome former French army officer. They offered her a ride home from the airport. It was August. The air was hot and more humid than normal, thick and heavy with a pending thunderstorm. They took a wrong turn and missed the exit to her town. When Radu suggested to go back, she told him not to bother. He moved up her dress a few inches and stuck his hand between her legs. She smiled at him and laid her hand in his neck and then on his crotch. As soon as they walked into the house, the French friend gracefully retreated into the guest room. She had felt a pinch of disappointment. On the drive she had pictured them both, with her. A man’s mouth simply couldn’t be in two places at once.
Radu poured one glass of homemade red wine, took a gulp and handed her the glass. She barely had a taste, or he’d taken the glass away from her again, picked her up and placed her on the kitchen table. The plastic sheet had a sixties floral pattern. It felt sticky and sounded like Sellotape being peeled off the gift wrapping of a present, every time she lifted her legs. He took hold of the sides of her panties and pulled them down. She felt his breath against her skin while he moved closely along with them all the way to her ankles. He wrapped his hands around them, parting her legs slightly and started licking her, leaving a warm and wet trail upwards. His stubble rubbed against her skin like sandpaper. He bit her just above her knees. Hard. When his head reached her labia, he kissed her, sucked her clit into his mouth and just as she arched her back and let out a small sigh, he let go of her. She wanted to grab hold of him, but as he had stepped back, she held on to the table instead, balancing herself. Out of her reach Radu took off his shirt, unbuckled his belt and before pulling down his jeans took a condom from his back pocket. While he slowly took it out of the wrapper, she traced the perfect pattern of his hair from his chest to his belly button with her eyes and when calmly he put on the condom, she realised why he made her watch. It was worth a look.
After that first night the way he fucked her soon became very matter of fact, uneventful. Pragmatic almost. Then it went off the rails altogether. Once, when she went down on him in the shower, he had grabbed hold of her head and pushed so hard her head hit the shower door. She liked it rough, sometimes, and had no problems with men showing her what they wanted, how they wanted it. But as she told him, she didn’t think getting fucked in the face like some past-her-sell-by-date porn star was particularly sexy. They no longer shared the intimacy that permitted it. He sulked. She ignored him.
How could she want him? She had not even seen his eyes or heard his voice. When his hand moved across the table to take the pack of cigarettes he had carefully placed on top of his wallet to his left, her hand moved too. Instead of turning the page of her book it just slid over the table as if she was sitting opposite him. When she heard the click of the lighter and saw the smoke waft into the air, she imagined him taking a drag from his cigarette. She licked her lips.
Men could cater to her whims for a while, but they never really got it. Superficial, detached. She had been told so often she did not care. Would she lie naked next to someone if she didn’t? Would she listen to them? Hear them, see them, let them inside her? They liked being seduced, or liked her giving them the illusion they could seduce her when it had long been decided, yes or no.
Her favourite dish had not been on the menu tonight. She couldn’t decide on an alternative, so she ordered some olives and a glass of dry white wine. It was crisp, and a little flowery. The perfect aroma to bring it along for a late spring picnic. The sun was casting its last rays while sinking behind the museum. The man had asked for the bill.
His hand brushed passed her breast, turning her nipple hard fast, an instant response. It could have been accidental, but she had a feeling nothing this man did was unintentional. He was too aware, too in control. And yet… something about him felt boundless, infinite… Strolling across the market on the big square, she had stopped at the stall of a silversmith. The woman had some great designs on display, and she was tempted to get something. When trying on a necklace, fumbling with the clasp, someone took it out of her hands and closed it swiftly. Startled she turned around and finally saw the front of the man. His hair was less dark then she remembered. If he would wear it a little longer, it would curl. His eyes were more hazel than brown. He was tall, but wasn’t huge. There was a hint of speed and agility underneath his movements. She didn’t blink, she didn’t blush. She just looked him straight in his eyes, her head tilted back slightly in defiance.
He took his wallet from his pocket and paid for the necklace, while having a friendly chat with the silversmith. He said nothing to her, didn’t even look at her, but the way he walked away carried the assumption she would now join him. She did, without hesitation or wondering where they were going.
“Max,” he said. “We should at least be on a first name basis if I am going to do to you what I am about to do.”
“Lila,” she whispered in his ear, before biting his earlobe. It was all he would allow her to do.